WWW Supporting Tourism
in Central Asia

The Central Asian region is a unique travel destination.

Recognizing that tourism contributes to the economic development of the region, stimulates cultural exchange and serves as a perfect vehicle for people diplomacy, Swiss-Central Asian Business Council supports tourism development there in a variety of ways.

We work closely with industry associations and government to launch initiatives which not only contribute to the development of the tourism sector but do it through mass involvement of citizens.

Our first initiative in this field was organizing an open international contest to choose the official tourism slogan for Kyrgyzstan. The contest drew unprecedented popular response and was very widely publicized.

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Almost every country in the world has an official slogan to help promote it as a tourism destination. The ones left out are Afghanistan, Somalia, North Korea, Central African Republic and a few others which are not on the travel map for the regular tourist anyway. Pretty much everyone else has a slogan for the official propaganda of the destination.

A country’s tourism slogan does not have to be nice or funny or elaborately creative. Its sole purpose is to give the potential traveler — in the briefest of formats — the compelling reason to choose one destination over all others.

«All Africa in one country», says Cameroon’s travel slogan. A very straightforward way to convey that if you are considering an exotic vacation in that continent, then go no further than Cameroon because it has everything that you associate with Africa, whatever it is.

«Mother Nature’s Best-Kept Secret» — the travel slogan of Belize appeals straight to the eco-minded tourists — the main client base for that country.

«You Are Invited», says Iran. A very smart slogan, if you think about it. There are so many things Iran can offer to travelers — mountains, beach tourism in the Gulf, unique cultural heritage of the old days, but it chose to say nothing more than you are invited. Why? Because this slogan addresses the main problem of Iran’s travel industry. Due to the country’s dismal image in the West (true or not, does not matter), people will not even know that it welcomes tourists. So it focuses on the main problem point, leaving others out.

«A New Mediterranean» (Albania), «Hospitality Beyond Borders» (Belarus), «Life at its Purest» (Ecuador), and so on, and so on. All of these slogans support the drive of their countries to advertise a particular aspect of their attraction.

Until now the Kyrgyz Republic, a landlocked ex-USSR country sliced between Kazakhstan in the north and China in the south, did not have an official slogan to promote its tourism.

Kyrgyzstan’s travel industry is quite a vibrant one: its mountains and beautiful high altitude planes attract active travelers all year round. It has a huge 1.7 km high lake called the Issyk Kul which is the center for regional beach tourism in the warm months. The country is also a part of the ancient Silk Route and has historical heritage dating back to the days of Genghis Khan and beyond.

The country is relatively poor and cannot afford to hire an international agency to develop its destination brand. There is not much initiative from the local travel industry either: it is very segmented and focused on its own survival without any strategic foresight.

So this is where the Swiss — Central Asian Business Council stepped to remedy the situation.

We did this by launching an open public contest where anyone could propose a variant and put it out for public discussion.

With the support of the local Department of Tourism we announced a popular contest to develop a slogan for the tourism industry, promising a prize of 5000 dollars to the winner and three other 1000$ prizes to those excelling in crafting slogans for specific travel products of the country.

We put together an impressive Contest Jury including travel industry professionals, industry regulators and marketing experts and opened a website where contestants could publicly post their proposals. One of the Business Council’s members, a Swiss-based financial company Leman which just recently bought the oldest brokerage in Kyrgyzstan, provided prize money and greatly assisted in the organization.

The terms of the contest were that the participants disclaim exclusive copyright in their proposals so that each and every offered slogan may be freely used by anyone to promote tourism in the Kyrgyz Republic. It is not allowed to borrow the ideas for the benefit of other countries, but if you are a Kyrgyz hotel, travel agency or event organizer — feel free.

It was unclear initially if the slogan challenge would catch up. But it did, and in a big way. Launched in August 2018, by its deadline of April 2019 the contest received over 6450 bids which made the organizers extend it for three more weeks to digest the volume of proposals.

The contributed slogans are praising Kyrgyzstan as the «Pearl of Asia», call it the «Ecoland», «Powered by Nature» and «Masterpiece of Nature» to attract eco-minded visitors, and promise «The Spirit of Adventure» to the more active travelers.

One contestant coined a neologism, «Kyrgyzstunning» to pay tribute to the country’s stunning natural beauty.

«Exceeding expectations», «The New Legend», «The Unforgettable», «Memories Forever» — all challenge the potential visitor to personally check if he or she is missing something by not going to Kyrgyzstan.

«A Waterfall of Emotions» alludes to the country’s many stunning waterfalls and promises a wave of positive emotions from the visit.

«Our Planet’s Natural Park»? Sounds like Kyrgyzstan is the super-eco of all the eco destinations on this planet.

«Where the pace of time slows down» — you really will want to check out the place!

«Attraction of the Unexplored» — is definitely for the seekers of new exotic destinations.

A poetic narrative of the fact that 90% of the country lies 1500 meters above sea level or higher: «The Milky Way is So Close». That’s true, it is. And the sky is very clean, too. «Where the Stars Descend to Touch The Water» — same line, and a keen observation on the visual phenomenon of Kyrgyzstan’s high altitude lakes.

A crowdsourcing success, no doubt.

The chosen winner was Kyrgyzstan — Infinitely Unique. It is now the official tourism industry slogan of the country.

An important condition of participating in the contest was the surrender of exclusive copyright in each proposed variant for the benefit of the tourism industry of the Kyrgyz Republic. By adding this legal condition we not only helped the country to select the best slogan to advertize itself, but in fact gifted its travel industry open rights to use all the slogan variants tendered for the contest. The country now has more than 6000 variants to draw from. More than enough for the coming years.

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The new tourism-boosting initiative which was launched immediately after the contest was concluded follows the same line of crowd contributions for the benefit of all.

Together with the Department of Tourism of the Kyrgyz government we launched a call for travelers to document the travel routes in Kyrgyzstan by taking trips and providing videos, photography and detailed descriptions of the route. With this we are creating a rich online resource — an encyclopedia of travel destinations in the country.

The country’s problem is that very few travelers know of its hidden beauty beyond the Lake Issyk Kul and a few historical sites on the old Silk Route. But the Kyrgyz lands have so much to offer beyond the widely publicized spots.

The contest (which, as before, promises prize money for the best submissions) will be covered by a local TV channel, as a further incentive for the participants to submit good quality video material.

The first phase of the contest will be closed at the Kyrgyz Travel Awards ceremony at the Issyk Kul lake on 27 September 2019.